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Volume 545: debated on Monday 21 May 2012

17. What recent assessment she has made of any link between sales of the drug khat and serious organised crime; and if she will make a statement. (108043)

The Government are currently reviewing the case for control of khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will consider all available evidence, including any links with serious organised crime. Its advice will inform the Home Secretary’s decision.

The UK will shortly become the only legal port of entry for the drug khat in western Europe, so what steps will the Government take to ensure that the UK does not become a drug smuggling hub for the rest of Europe?

I know that my hon. Friend has followed this issue with close interest. The Government are monitoring the situation carefully and seeking evidence from the Serious Organised Crime Agency and others to inform the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. That advice is due in October, earlier than expected, and we will form our final decision on the basis of that.

Will the Minister study the evidence that every ban on every new drug since 1971 has resulted in an increase in that drug’s use? A ban on khat will not only increase its use but drive a wedge between the police and the Somali and Yemeni communities. Is this a sensible idea?

We will form our decision based on the evidence and the information provided by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation; bans can be very effective. For example, part of the problem with legal highs has been that young people have been taking them because they equated legality with safety. That is why we have taken action in that sphere and we will continue to take action on the legal framework.